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On Wednesday 20 January, King Willem-Alexander spoke to representatives of businesses and organisations - including UvA lecturer Henk Volberda - about the development of our digital infrastructure in the COVID period. One of the reasons for this online discussion was the publication of the special edition of the Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), for which Volberda collected the Dutch data.

Henk Volberda (bottom left side) talking to the king

The study showed that the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries were best prepared for the post-Covid period due to their excellent infrastructure and accessible digital networks, the accelerated digital transformation of their businesses and the excellent digital skills of their populations. As well as boosting economic recovery, this accelerated digitalisation could also lay the foundations for a more productive, sustainable and inclusive economy.

 

Amazing experience

'It was an amazing experience and a great honour to talk to the king about the importance of digital innovation as a driver of the economy,' says Volberda, professor of Strategic Management & Innovation and Director of the Amsterdam Centre for Business Innovation at the UvA. 'The study that we conducted as a partner institute of the World Economic Forum shows that the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries are best equipped to realise a long-term transformation and to restrict the economic fallout of the pandemic. Better public services, green investment and digitalisation are key factors in this regard. The king was highly interested and extremely well informed on the issue. I was joined around the digital table by the CEOs of Vodafone/Ziggo, i3d.net and Quanza. We complemented each other extremely well and the synergy between all the participants was wonderful to see.'

Opportunities and threats

The discussions were held in two parts. Volberda was a participant in the first part, which addressed developments in the digital infrastructure such as the link between economic resilience, digitalisation and digital infrastructure as well as the accompanying opportunities and threats. The second part addressed the broader digital economy and society, including the effects of the accelerated transformation to digital working, learning, healthcare and activities. The discussions were chaired by Michiel Steltman, director of DINL.

The session on digital infrastructure during the Covid period was part of a series in which King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima speak to some of the countless people involved in tackling the Covid pandemic, either by phone, via video calls or - if possible - via working visits.